If you consider how much oil the world holds, Aberdeen is a microcosm by comparison.
When North Sea oil was in its pomp and the city had the world at its feet, so many young people growing up in the north-east assumed they had a job for life as long as that black gold continued to flow from the UK Continental Shelf.
Nobody expected a global recession and the subsequent downturn in oil price.
When it hit more than 160,000 people found themselves for the first time without gainful employment. Couple Bryan Peterkin and Jillian Dingwall decided this was their chance to start over – they were still young; they still had plenty to offer.
Relocating from Aberdeen to Malta might have seemed crazy to those who didn’t share their dream, but a gritty determination would see them mould their interests into a career.
As work began to dry up all around them, Mr Peterkin, a mechanical and offshore engineering graduate, was working as a subsea engineer for Expro. Ms Dingwall, a trained petroleum geologist, once at Halliburton, was with Northern Irish outfit Geological Data Services (GDS).
Mr Peterkin said: “People all around me were saying that this wasn’t a normal downturn, this one was going to last a long time. Things started to become cyclical. There’d be a round of job cuts, and you’d be okay for six months. But in our hearts we knew that the days of $120 per barrel were long gone.”
Ms Dingwall had always dreamed of writing professionally. While the oil downturn was handing other people lemons, she was going to make lemonade.
She said: “I did it, and within six months of arriving in Malta I got a job as a copywriter at Swedish company Betsson, the biggest iGaming company in Malta. A year later, I got promoted to content manager there. I’m now content writing for a fun, start-up lottery company called Jackpot.com and couldn’t begin to put into words how happy I am that I took the risk.
“People who are used to working over here think I’m mental that I’m so grateful I get to do this for a living, but they don’t know – as I sat on a freezing, shuddering helicopter in the dead of winter – how absolutely impossible this once seemed to me.”
Mr Peterkin, by contrast, had always thought he might do something else. He just wasn’t entirely ready to be thrust into the situation of making that decision by events out with his control.
Like Ms Dingwall, he also took advantage of the burgeoning gaming sector which had sprung up in Malta, taking a job as a sports trader with Gaming Innovation Group.
“I remember deciding that I was going to do it. I was scared but excited. I saw the growing gaming industry in Malta and it seemed like a logical move for me because I was always good with numbers.”
At this time of year, while most of us are donning our thickest togs before we step out into that bitter north-east wind, it’s difficult not to feel a distinct pang of jealously towards the life that Mr Peterkin and Ms Dingwall have chosen. Yet, even they miss some of their old life.
“I do miss the rigs sometimes,” Ms Dingwall said. “The atmosphere is so unique, one that is impossible to recreate in an office. I miss the feeling of camaraderie you have offshore, the questionable humour, and I also miss getting to wear a padded onesie to work. I don’t, however, miss the cold, the grey, the long hours, the night shifts and the noise.”
Despite the occasional bout of melancholy, Mr Peterkin and Ms Dingwall have built a new life on the island of Malta in spite of what life handed them. While some people say “always look on the sunny side of life”, some people actually do it.
“We’re looking to buy property over here, if we can,” Mr Peterkin said. “I’m really happy we made this move. I don’t think there’s much chance of us going back. Sometimes people just need a little shove.”